When I was six or seven years old, I came home from church one Sunday after spending time in the nursery with the other kids. I had been playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on one of those brightly colored xylophones. It was so much fun. I kept hitting the little slats until I finally figured out the tune. So, we got home and my parents had a small dual keyboard organ with foot pedals. I don’t remember it too well, but I know they (or at least my dad) would play it on occasion. I sat my little butt on the bench, being careful not to step on the foot pedals, and I plucked and plucked at the keys until I found Mary Had a Little Lamb. I don’t know if this is normal for how musically inclined people start learning, but my impression of the story that’s been told to me as I’ve gotten older is that teaching myself by ear on two different instruments was pretty impressive.
My parents started teaching me little basics of how to play the piano and what notes were called and such, and the next year I was enrolled in piano lessons. My parents bought a Yamaha Clavinova piano. Even though it’s not a typical upright or a grand, I hesitate calling it a keyboard because it’s not one of those chintzy 22 or 36 key keyboards with 50 different sounds and a demo-at-the-touch-of-a-button button. It only had 5 voices (of which, I only ever used piano anyway), a volume bar and a power button. You could plug headphones in, which I think my dad appreciated as I got older. Plus, the keys were weighted just like a “real” piano.
I had piano lessons from second grade through ninth. I went through all levels of basic one-note at a time recitals to intermediate/advanced songs. I didn’t always care about the lessons (Jaime! Your nails click the keys! Trim them!!), but I loved the freedom of expression that playing music granted me. Unfortunately, I was never one to be able to come up with my own songs or do improvisational styles, but if I sensed an emotion in a song I was playing, I damn well tried my best to impart it when I played.
When I “grew up” and moved on, attempting that thing called Being An Adult, I always wished I’d have enough money to get a piano so I could play. I’d even joke with my dad about when he was planning on giving me this piano. Whenever I found a friend that had a piano, or went to church with family members, I’d always find the piano and play the one song I could still remember: Fur Elise. I still remember bits and pieces of it even though it’s been over 10 years since I learned it. And I don’t have any of my old sheet music due to one of those out-of-your-control life issues and that kind of makes me sad. 🙁
A couple of weeks ago, my brother mentioned that our dad was planning on replacing “my” piano with a newer version and selling the old one on Craigslist. I was not about to let him sell off this piano that helped me though the emotional traumas of growing up to some stranger. So, I bought it from him! We got it home Sunday and put back together. I have a few pieces of sheet music of songs that I had wanted to play, but never had the piano to do it, so I pulled those out and started sight-reading.
And it was so hard! But I loved it! Every single moment! My piano is sitting in my living room where the futon had been (Bye-bye couch!!) and it just seems to fit perfectly. I don’t remember how I managed to play the piano and turn the pages though. It used to just happen, but now I stutter over the keys and notes and then there’s a huuuuge pause while I stop to turn the page. :p I know it will get easier with practice, but that doesn’t change me wishing I could play like I did when I was younger.
My daughter has been asking me for a couple years if she could take piano lessons, but my typical response was always “Well, since we don’t have a piano, you wouldn’t be able to practice.” Now that we have one, though, I bought a couple of “older” student piano books and I’m going to start teaching her. I know I am really looking forward to teaching her (and reteaching myself!), but I’m not sure how much she’ll want to keep learning when I’m teaching chords or one-note at a time songs. 😉
Having this piano means so much to me. I don’t even know if I can express in words how much it means. Maybe once I get back up on that bike and ride, I’ll have my husband record it. That way, everyone can hear the emotion that I feel now when I play on the piano I grew up with.
I plan to play and learn and enjoy each note I can. Here’s to the music that I hope graces everyone in some manner.